11 Rare and Little-Known Facts About a Parisian Icon – Le Moulin Rouge

by | 13 May 2024

The world’s most famous cabaret Le Moulin Rouge is a Parisian icon. A whirlwind of dance and entertainment, this extravagant cabaret has been enthralling guests for more than 130 years.

To learn more about what it is like to step inside this hallowed music hall, we spoke to Travel Director Krista. Leading Insight tours for 20 years, she has spent the last 12 years living in Paris, her home away from home. A true lover of Le Moulin Rouge, she tells us why it is so special and shares some fascinating facts about Le Moulin Rouge you might not know.

Krista is also this week’s Insightful Destination Expert, and inspired our 5 Travel Trivia questions. Read the article for clues, then play the game here.

A Parisian icon

“One of the reasons I love living in Paris is simply the fact that there’s so much culture so much history even just walking down the streets,” says Krista. “But by far one of the greatest places that I’ve ever experienced, which always brings me awe and amazement is going to the Moulin Rouge.”

Le Moulin Rouge is located at the foot of Montmartre, a large hill in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement. Famed as the birthplace of the French cancan, the cabaret dates back to the end of the 19th Century. It was originally named Le Bal du Moulin Rouge and opened its doors on 6 October 1889 (the same year as the Eiffel Tower), providing much needed entertainment and decadence for Parisians after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.

“There are certain places in Paris that are part of the fabric of the city like the Champs Elysées Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame or the Louvre, but the Moulin Rouge is the heartbeat of Montmartre,” she explains.

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That “je-ne-sais-quoi”

“There is something that happens when you step into the Moulin Rouge, it’s almost indescribable,” Krista tells us. “It’s this feeling that you were being transported to a different time a different era and that you’re going to experience a very special piece of Paris. Despite having been there hundreds of times, it still feels magical.

“Le Moulin Rouge truly epitomizes the French expression that it has a little “je-ne-sais-quoi” – there’s nothing quite like it in Paris or anywhere in the world.”

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A sight to behold

“If the walls could talk, they would tell stories of great artists like Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril, who helped to make the Moulin Rouge the icon that it is today.  Actors and singers like Mistinguett contributed to the cabaret’s legend while others like Edith Piaf and Yves Montand kept it going strong.

“As soon as you step in the doors, you can feel that something grand is about to happen. Guests can dance to the live band that’s performing so you can say that you’ve danced on the Moulin Rouge stage.

“Anticipation starts to rise and there is an electricity in the air that starts to build throughout the evening. Then the lights dim, and you know that the shows about to start.

“When the show begins, you’ll hear a gasp ripple through the audience when they see all f the beautiful dancers, colors and costumes step out on the stage. It’s a sight to behold – you almost don’t know where to look sometimes. Guests walk out completely amazed at what they’ve seen, and have more than once said it is an experience of a lifetime.”

You can visit Le Moulin Rouge as an optional experience on our “Business Class Tours” to France 


To tease you further, Krista shared some interesting and intriguing facts about Le Moulin Rouge:


With its huge dance floor and spectacular decor, the original Moulin Rouge was extravagant and attracted the bourgeois from all over Paris. Sadly, it was ravaged by a fire in 1915. The auditorium and ballroom were completely destroyed, leaving only the façade and part of the stage standing. However, it was rebuilt in identical form in 1921, as grandiose as when it first began.

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2. It was the first electric building in Paris

Designed by Adolphe Léon Willette, Le Moulin Rouge was the first electric building in Paris. Its colorful, electrically powered facade illuminated the entire Place Blanche to welcome patrons to late-night shows – an image that became a Paris landmark forever.

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3. Le Moulin Rouge employs 1,500 people

This includes 80 artists and 60 Doriss Girls dancers (named for Mademoiselle Doriss, a German choreographer who formed the troupe in 1957). In the front-of-house team you will find the maître-d and 120 waiters to take care of the nightly audience of 900 guests.

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Although Le Moulin Rouge is known for its high kicking, graceful female dancers, one of the little-known facts about Le Moulin Rouge is that male dancers are also invited to audition. Exceptional dancing talent is required, of course, as is a great stage presence and a bright personality.

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Known for its fast-paced high kicks, the lively and risqué cancan is synonymous with Le Moulin Rouge. In fact, the cabaret is known as the birthplace of the cancan. The dance itself can be traced back to the 1820’s, from a previous dance called the Quadrille Naturaliste. Performed by both men and women, it involved high kicks and jump splits. London music hall owner Charles Morton adapted the dance as the French Cancan, but it was deemed too extravagant for the British public at the time (showing underwear was considered indecent). So, it was reimported back to France to Le Moulin Rouge which is where the dance became world famous.

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6. After ‘Frou-Frou’ all reviews begin with an F

One of the more surprising facts about Le Moulin Rouge relates to the naming of the reviews (shows). Doris Haug came to the cabaret in 1957 and founded the Doriss Girls troupe. ‘Frou-Frou’ was her second review as was a huge success. Superstition then followed and all reviews at Le Moulin Rouge being with the letter F. Nine have been created since: Frisson, Fascination, Fantastic, Festival, Follement, Frénésie, Femmes Femmes Femmes, Formidable and Féérie.

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The costumes of the Le Moulin Rouge are sewn on-site by hand and are as important as the dances themselves. A 24-hour team are housed on site to produce and repair costumes. The typical cancan skirt uses around 150m of fabric, and extravagant costumes can weigh up to 5kg with all crystals from Swarovski.

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8. Shoes are also hand crafted

Since 1945, Maison Clairvoy has been hand-making shoes for Le Moulin Rouge. Five cobblers follow 250 steps to produce each shoe, with each taking 20-60 hours to complete. The walls of the workshop are adorned with signed photos of performers. You can also see a well-worn piece of red carpet where dancers have tested the shoes.

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More than an entertainment show, one of the most delicious facts about Le Moulin Rouge is its food. Chef Arnaud Demerville is in charge of awakening the taste buds of the 500 guests who dine in the Moulin Rouge hall each evening, where he is assisted by a team of 25 staff. The menu offers the best of seasonal cuisine, with fresh authentic produce created with passion. A referenced place for French gastronomy, Le Moulin Rough features in the Gauld & Millau guide, one of the most prestigious culinary accolades.

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10. Endless champagne

If you’re looking for fun facts about the Moulin Rouge, did you know that 240,000 bottles of champagne are served each year in 750 silver Champagne buckets? This makes the cabaret the largest retail consumer of champagne in Europe.

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During the cabaret’s 125-year anniversary celebration in 2014, Moulin Rouge dancer Adonis Kosmadakis lifted his leg above his head 30 times in 30 seconds. With this he set a Guinness World Record. The cabaret also holds the record for the most simultaneous high kicks in 30 seconds by a single chorus line, with 720. That’s 24 high kicks per dancer!

Are you feeling inspired to see these amazing moves for yourself? Take a look at our “Business Class Tours” tours to France where you can add a visit the cabaret as an optional experience.


I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.